September 19, 2013

State Roundup, September 19, 2013

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REVENUE ESTIMATES LOWERED: Maryland officials lowered state revenue estimates for the current fiscal year Tuesday as many state residents remain out of work, others spend less and the possibility of a federal government shutdown looms, writes Gary Haber for the Baltimore Business Journal.

PERRY, O’MALLEY CLASH: John Fritze of the Sun writes that, after circling each other for days, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and Texas Gov. Rick Perry clashed Wednesday in a nationally televised debate that was focused on state economic policy but tied closely to presidential politics.

Perry spent much of Wednesday in the Free State on his latest foray into a Democratic governor’s back yard to court businesses to Texas, writes John Wagner of the Post. A series of radio and television ads narrated by Perry criticizing Maryland’s tax environment preceded his arrival by several days.

Speaking outside a steakhouse in Bethesda on Wednesday where he met with Maryland business owners, Texas Gov. Rick Perry dismissed criticism of his visit to a gun manufacturer days after a mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard, the Sun’s John Fritze is reporting.

GUN LAWS & VIOLENCE: Fraser Smith of WYPR-FM speaks about Maryland’s new gun control and how states with strong gun laws apparently experience less gun violence.

TOUGHER GUN LAWS: A blog in MarylandReporter.com writes that Jordan Cooper, a candidate for the House of Delegates, issued a proposal Wednesday that lives up to the worst fears of gun owners. But it might have appeal inside the Beltway in the district now represented by Sen. Brian Frosh, floor leader of the new control law. Cooper’s plan includes a total ban on assault rifles, biennial renewal of gun licenses, and government confiscation of guns not properly licensed or renewed.

CROWNSVILLE PROBE:Gov. Martin O’Malley has asked Maryland’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene in a Sept. 17 letter to research the treatment of African Americans at state mental hospitals, especially Crownsville, which closed in 2004. A coalition of black leaders and the state Legislative Black Caucus called for an investigation in August, writes Jack Lambert in the Capital Gazette.

EDUCATION INITIATIVE: Despite being ranked No. 1 nationwide in public education for the past five years, Maryland has started a new initiative to help children succeed in an increasingly competitive world, the state’s top school official said Wednesday, reports Dan Dearth for the Hagerstown Herald-Mail.

MACo REVIEW: Rick Pollitt and Michael Sanderson came to the Kent County Commissioners’ meeting Tuesday, Sept. 10, to review the activities of the Maryland Association of Counties, writes Craig O’Donnell for the Easton Star Democrat. Pollitt, who is the Wicomico County executive, is the organization’s president for 2013. Sanderson is MACo’s executive director.

STEELE TO SIT THIS ONE OUT: Former Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele, who floated the idea this summer of running for governor of Maryland, said Wednesday that he will not enter the 2014 race, reports the Post’s John Wagner.

GANSLER MEDIA AIDE: The Sun’s Michael Dresser is reporting that Attorney General Doug Gansler has hired a veteran broadcast journalist to be his top media relations aide as he prepares to launch his campaign for the Democratic nomination for governor next week. Bob Wheelock, a longtime ABC producer who most recently worked for the Qatari-owned cable network Al Jazeera America, will join his campaign as communications director.

His credits include senior producer for ABC News’s “Good Morning America” and “This Week With David Brinkley,” as well as eight years as the senior broadcast producer for ABC’s political and White House coverage, reports John Wagner in the Post.

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HERSHEY TO REPLACE PIPKIN: Gov. Martin O’Malley has appointed first-term Del. Stephen Hershey to fill the seat vacated by Sen. E.J. Pipkin in District 36 – breaking a tie among the GOP central committees of Caroline, Cecil, Kent and Queen Anne’s counties, reports Daniel Menefee for MarylandReporter.com. They were split between Hershey and his colleague in the House of Delegates, Del. Mike Smigiel.

Jack Shaum of the Easton Star Democrat writes that O’Malley said that the selection was not guided by “which candidate I would prefer, but rather by which candidate has demonstrated the broadest electoral support in the district. In both the Central Committee balloting and the last general election, Del. Hershey has demonstrated a broader base of support.”

The selection ended weeks of wrangling and back-room intrigue among Republicans in four counties on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, who could not reach a consensus on who should succeed Sen. Pipkin, John Wagner reports.

CASSILLY RUNS FOR 35B: Andrew Cassilly announces that he is running for the State House of Delegates for District 35B in a press release in the Dagger.

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O’MALLEY IN NH: Gov. O’Malley will deliver remarks in New Hampshire this fall at a dinner for the state Democratic Party, his first trip to the important presidential primary state in about a year, John Fritze writes for the Sun.

O’Malley spokeswoman Lis Smith said O’Malley looked forward to “talking about the better choices he’s made and the better results he’s delivered in Maryland and to rallying the base” for the 2014 reelection campaigns of Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan, John Wagner writes in the Post.

VA GIVES OUT BONUSES: The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs office in Baltimore — under fire for being one of the worst-performing in the country — gave out a total of $64,000 in bonuses to its employees over the past three years, agency records show, Yvonne Wenger reports in the Sun.

JONES WON’T GET BACK PAY: Anne Arundel County Councilman Daryl Jones won’t be receiving any back pay for the time he was absent from the council, reports Allison Bourg for the Capital-Gazette. Andrea Fulton, head of personnel for Anne Arundel County, said Jones isn’t entitled to back pay because there was no such claim requested when he sued the County Council over his ousting last year.

CELL TOWERS IN ARUNDEL: Months of debating a proposed 99-foot cell phone tower at an Anne Arundel County school could come down to one single factor — the law. County Councilman Jamie Benoit introduced legislation Monday that would bar companies from building free-standing cell phone towers on public school property in Anne Arundel County, reports Jake Linger in the Capital-Gazette. Bill No. 78-13 also would restrict cell phone towers to beyond 500 feet of a dwelling.

CELL TOWERS IN MO CO: Tensions ran high at a meeting Tuesday night, during which state officials tried to allay concerns of Carderock Springs residents about plans to build a 180-foot tower near the local elementary school, reports Agnes Blum for the Gazette.The tower’s main purpose would be to provide emergency first responders with better coverage, especially on the Potomac River